Have you ever wondered whether or not that glass of wine or vodka tonic is damaging or good for your health? If you have, then you are just like most of my patients. This can be confusing, because just like most other things, the answer is different for each person-this is where personalized medicine really shines. With the summer almost upon us (we hope!), many people will find they are given the opportunity to drink more than usual because there will be more socializing, barbeques and vacations. For this reason, I decided to dedicate this months’ newsletter to this topic, to give you guidelines to perhaps make better choices.
Is Alcohol Good or Bad?
First, let’s discuss whether alcohol is good or bad. The answer is, it depends. While studies have shown that red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that is protective for cardiovascular disease, other studies have shown that any alcohol at all increases your risk for cancer. What to do? You need to weigh your own personal risk factors to decide what makes sense for you.
- The Good: Red wine is good for your heart. For people who want to prevent heart disease, or are at high risk, a glass of red wine every day seems to be not only okay, but also good for you. And while red wine is best, other alcohol in moderation is okay too. What does high risk mean? You are high risk for cardiovascular disease if you have angina, atherosclerosis (narrowing of your arteries), or failed a stress test; if you had a heart attack, bypass surgery, or a stroke. Also if one of these things happened to one of your parents when they were in there 50’s.
- The Bad: Any amount of alcohol consumption of any kind, increases your risk for cancer. If you are concerned about cancer because you have a strong family history, or you have had cancer yourself, you should not drink. Period. Does this mean that an occasional glass of wine or cocktail will hurt you? Probably not. But chronic daily consumption, or drinking several days every week, is not a good idea.
- The Bad: Alcohol stresses your liver. If you have known issues with your liver, other toxin exposure like mold or heavy metals or pesticides that are causing issues with your health, you shouldn’t drink, or only consume alcohol on occasion. If you have multiple chemical sensitivities, such as you can’t tolerate smells like perfume or cigarette smoke, this can be a sign that your liver is stressed with too many toxins. We can help you understand more about this by reading our Supporting Your Liver Guide or signing up for our free online program Do It With Us: Supporting Your Liver.
- The Bad: Alcoholic beverages are high in sugar. If you have diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or are trying to lose weight, keep In mind that when you drink a glass of wine or a cocktail mixed with juice, you are consuming a glass of sugar. This can trigger cravings for bread and dessert and other high starch foods, and cause you to make poor food choices that undermine your healthy eating goals. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but rather a warning to be careful, and to choose lower sugar options when you drink-which means avoiding martinis and cocktails with added syrup and juices, and opting for wine or a cocktail with club soda or fresh lime juice.
Here’s my quick recap of The Good & The Bad:
If you are low risk for cancer and believe that your liver is generally healthy, then alcohol in moderation seems to be okay, which to me means alcohol socially on the weekend, and avoiding high sugar cocktails. If you want to protect your heart, then red wine seems to be good for you, and you can enjoy a daily glass of your favorite Pinot Noir guilt free.